Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Cranberries & Feta

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Quinoa and I have a tortured relationship. One that I am adament on mending. I have to admit, it may be my fault. Our introduction wasn’t entirely agreeable. I totally didn’t realize you were supposed to rinse quinoa, so the first few times I tried to force us to like this magical grain, we totally hated it. It tasted weird and soapy and gross. So, I left it alone for 2 solid years before realizing I was doing it all wrong. For shame!

Since, I’ve dabbled in quinoa. Adding it to bean burgers and turkey meatballs, letting it hang in the background, no longer hating it, but continuing to let it underwhelm me. Not giving it a fare shake. Recently, though, I’ve become obsessed with this “autumn couscous salad” from the deli of my favorite grocery store, New Seasons. I decided to remake it at home, but sub out the couscous for quinoa in yet another attempt at making it something we could love. And, hallelujah! I’ve done it!

This salad just gets me. It’s full of texture (my favorite) and perfectly balances sweet, nutty, salty, and tangy. I love the way quinoa retains some texture even after it’s cooked and sort of pops when you chew it. Plus it makes this salad so filling, making for a great lunch on its own.

Print Recipe

Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Cranberries and Feta

Make 4-6 servings

I like my vinaigrettes pretty tart and tangy, using a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and olive oil. If you like a smoother dressing, go ahead and reduce the vinegar by a tablespoon or so, to taste. The dressing also includes quite a bit of shallot, which makes for a chunky vinaigrette, but totally adds a ton of flavor to the salad without making for an overwhelmingly onion-y dish. There may seem to be a lot of vinaigrette, but the quinoa really soaks up the dressing. If you are worried, add half and see where you’re at before adding the rest to taste.

3 cups sweet potato, diced small (about 2 small sweet potatoes)

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup shelled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons fresh, chopped sage

1/4 cup finely diced shallot (about 1 medium shallot)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1-2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Toss the diced sweet potato with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Spread the sweet potatoes in an even layer on a sheet pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes, stirring once after about 15 minutes, until tender and some pieces begin to brown. Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa well in a mesh strainer. Add it to a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the quinoa begins to boil reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed. Let the quinoa stand, uncovered for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

While the sweet potatoes and quinoa cook, mix up the dressing. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the shallots, with the red wine vinegar, remaining olive oil, mustard, maple syrup, the remaining salt, and pepper. Shake well to combine.

Add the still warm, cooked quinoa to a large mixing bowl and combine with the dressing. Fold in the cooked sweet potatoes, spinach, cranberries, pepitas, feta, and sage. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Peace out, 2014!

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CHEERS!! 2014 was a good one, maybe even the greatest yet.

Strawberry Mint Bourbon Smash

I started out the year 3 months pregnant and said goodbye to snowy Michigan and hello to rainy Oregon. We drove a lot of miles, crammed ourselves into a sleek and tiny light-filled apartment in a great Portland neighborhood and settled in. Less than six months later, we house hunted and moved into our first home. Exactly a week after we moved into the house, our son Casper Hart, was born. It was an insanely wonderful first half to a year. Then, we got to work settling into our home with our boy. We fell crazy in love with our tiny human, slept little, and nested a lot. The second half was equally crazy and amazing.

Portland “snow” in our backyard. 

Through it all we ate a ton of amazing food, visited with our families, and explored our new city. I also blogged and worked on freelance projects. Some for my girl Betty and a few others. It was fun and exciting and stressful. I found the light in 2 new spaces (the second of which I’m still figuring out) and tried to simplify my whole process. I was both happy with and frustrated with my work–it made me realize I want to work better and be better. I hosted some guest posts from bloggers I love and admire. I cannot give enough thanks to Nicole, Amy, Sarah, Erika, and Megan for taking care of my space while I took some time to birth a human and learn how to mom.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I made a lot of new favorite recipes this year and some of them were your favorites, too. One of those things I didn’t make, but my talented blogger friend did. Unsurprisingly, they were all treats and a lot of them were the frozen variety, some had booze, some were cakes, and there was also a pie and cookie that won your hearts and stomachs.

Double Berry Swirl Amaretti Ice Cream

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

4-Ingredient Strawberry Cream Pops

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pops

Ginger Bourbon Cider

Strawberry Mint Bourbon Smash

The Sugar Hit’s Blackberry Jam Donut Bundt Cake

Fold-Over Rhuberry Pie

Hazelnut Crunch Pumpkin Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Malted Oatmeal Cookies with Hazelnuts and Sea Salt

And, my number one, tip-top, favorite of all time-ever, was this guy. I know, I know…this is who I am now!

Don’t punch me.

In the new year I hope to continue to simplify my blogging/working process and put myself out there more regarding blogging and opportunities related to this space. I want to define my aesthetic more and hone my photography. I want to work on my writing and make it more meaningful when I can without it becoming too serious. I would also like to include more life stuff, maybe some mom stuff, but I’m still trying to figure out how to include it in a sensible way. Becoming a mom has changed me in so many amazing ways and I just want to figure out how to share some of that here.

Anyway, peace out 2014! You were an amazing gem and gave me so much more than I could have hoped for or even imagined. Wishing all of you all of the health and happiness in the lands for 2015. Cheers!!!

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Winter Rosé Sangria

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Slow Cooker Winter Rosé Sangria

Heeey! It’s officially winter here in the Northern Hemisphere and officially holiday times in my home. My parents are here with one of my nieces. My brother, his girlfriend, and my other niece will be on their way soon. We are scrambling around getting last minute things done and (literally) wrapped up, AND we’re finalizing grocery lists. Food, dranks, and food galore!

If you haven’t finalized your beverage plans, maybe I could suggest this wintry spiced Rosé sangria? It’s boozy and warm. There’s bourbon and warm spices like cinnamon, clove, vanilla. There’s also sweet apple cider, tangy cranberry, and zesty orange. It’s a perfect adult sipper, a little less rich than traditional mulled wine, but just as warming and cozy on these wintry holiday evenings.

Slow Cooker Winter Rosé SangriaHappy Holidays and Merry Everything to everyone, everywhere!!

For the recipe click on over to Betty Crocker. CHEERS!!!